Not everyone survived.
The final total was 14,700 people…
Aaron, brother of Moses, ran frantically through the congregation attempting to stop the plague from consuming everyone. God was furious. The people had shown a rebellious, divisive, vindictive, and faithless attitude one too many times. This time they dared to step in mutiny toward God’s friend.
Should Moses have let God destroy them? Would you? After all, this is the very congregation that was pining for their heads on a stick. They cared little of Moses’ leadership, his wisdom, his anointing, or his sacrifice. He was guided each and every moment by the presence of the Lord, but in the eyes of the people his decisions were never palatable. They had no plan as to who should lead them, they just knew it shouldn’t be Moses. They believed Moses was in the way. And they were right.
God did not hesitate. He was swift in His judgment. As soon as He spoke it into being, a plague broke out among the congregation. In a moment Moses did something I’m not sure my flesh would have agreed with. He got in the way.
He drew from his inner well of compassion and leadership and prodded Aaron into action. The Word of the Lord declares,
“So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was stopped.” – Numbers 16:48
Why did Aaron not move quicker? Was he paralyzed with fear or approval? Did the sight of God’s anger make him immobile, or did the thought of this murmuring hoard being consumed by the Lord bring him delight? What did he think his role as priest entailed? Did he overlook his responsibility as an intercessor on the job description? Was God not clear? Why was intercession not the very first thing on His mind? Either way, failure to intercede quickly resulted in 14,700 people dying in their rebellion.
14,700 people. That is the size of Traverse City, Michigan. Can you imagine if an entire town in the United States was destroyed by a plague? The post hoc outcry would be immeasurable. As I think about my city, Tucson, I can’t help but rehearse the daunting statistic that nearly half of my city is post Christian, un-churched, and de-churched. Do we not see the need to take our stand between the dead and the living? Should it not be our responsibility to take fire from the altar of God’s presence, mixed with the incense of prayer, and run throughout the community making intercession that the plague of unbelief would cease?
We so often become lethargic in our efforts to share Jesus. We don’t sense the urgency. Sure, tomorrow is not promised to any of us, but we play the odds like a cosmic game of eternal roulette. Our neighbor can wait, we’re tired. Our co-worker will be there tomorrow, I’ll try then.
We operate as if we have an abundance of days. We long for more of what we do not have access to. If we knew we had one week to live, we would long for nothing more than a few more days. We would pay attention to every sunrise and sunset. We would observe and attempt to capture every color in the sky. Every sense would be magnified as we tried our hardest to remember every single moment. Everything else would lose value. A hug and kiss would mean more than a gift. You would monitor every second and not waste a moment.
Our eternal alarm clock would ring incessantly and we would passionately claw at a chance to have our lives mean something. Legacy would mean more than money. Kingdom would mean more than breath.
I do not want to be the reason God’s wrath is stirred, and I equally do not want to be the reason it is not quenched. We need the fire from the altar glowing in our Spirit and the prayers of our lips to be a soothing aroma to the Lord. In the meantime, we must take our stand between the living and the dead and fashion a wall of intercession.
We have got to be willing to get in the way.